what to do when you don’t have the right person to delegate work to

You need to delegate a project but no one on your team is precisely equipped to handle it. But the work needs to get done, and you don’t have time (or skills) to do it yourself. How do you proceed?

When you don’t have the right person to delegate work to, here are six questions to ask yourself.

1. Can you outsource it – either to another department or a vendor? That might not be an ideal solution, but sometimes it’s the only solution. Don’t be afraid to explore how you might get the work done using someone who isn’t officially on your team.

2. Does the work really match up with your team’s goals? Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – when there’s no obvious choice to delegate work to, it’s because the work actually isn’t squarely in line with your goals. When that’s the case, it’s worth taking a step back and reassessing whether it’s work that you should be doing at all.

3. Is the issue that you don’t trust anyone on your team to do the work as well as you would? If so, do a gut-check about whether you have a pattern of wanting to do work yourself rather than delegating it. If you do (and many, many managers do), you might need to start working on letting go! To get the best results as a manager, you do have to delegate work to others; you can’t do it all yourself.

4. Could you equip a staff member to do the work well – or well enough – with a small investment of training time up-front? If so, would that be worth it to get the work done? It might turn out that you have an employee who’s eager to learn the skill.

5. Is this an ongoing problem? If you’re continually fielding projects that don’t naturally fall to anyone, it might be a flag that there’s a skills gap or capacity issue on your team and you need a bigger picture solution, like bringing on new staff.

6. Is there a staff member who you should theoretically delegate the work to, but who you just don’t trust to do it well? If that’s the case, then you’re probably looking at a performance problem, not a delegation problem. That’s something you’d need to tackle head-on; it’s a signal of real trouble on your team.

{ 4 comments… read them below }

  1. anon17*

    :-( I’ve done that. I’m told I don’t have to double check the work, just make sure it’s done right, but there’s only so much you can ensure is correct that way (like I can tell it’s a tea pot and that it pours a hot liquid, but I don’t know that an email was sent to the delegatee last week asking for the tea pot to be green). When we deliver a yellow tea pot, I’m asked if I checked the work.

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